Scorpion Ranch to Potato Harbor (Channel Islands)

During our spring California trip we took advantage of the opportunity to visit Channel Islands National Park. For years I’d always marveled at the few Channel Islands you could see from Hwy 101. The islands are tantalizing close to the California coastline. They’ve also been featured in numerous magazines and blogs I’ve read over the years. Itching for a hike with ocean views, something we dearly miss in New Mexico.

There are some logistics involved in hiking in the Channel Islands. We chose to hike Santa Cruz island departing from Ventura harbor. It’s a long ferry ride (1hr) which results in a pricey ride ($80). Thankfully the cost of admission to the park is built in to the ferry ticket. Island Packers is the only licensed passenger service to the island.

Our trip out to Santa Cruz island couldn’t have been more ideal, morning fog with light winds resulted in glassy smooth seas and easy sailing outbound. When we approached Santa Cruz island we were treated to a “super” pod of several common dolphins. It was a treat to watch the dolphins surround the boat. I’ve seen dolphins in small packs but nothing close to the marvel of several hundred dolphin bobbing through the sea. It was a real treat to start the day.

Unfortunately due to last years winter storms the pier at Scorpion anchorage was permanently damaged. With the damaged pier unloading and loading is a bit of a hassle and requires a skiff to shore. We had to don these ridiculous life vests and chances are you’ll get a bit wet disembarking.

After an uneventful skiff ride to shore we scrambled up the beach and headed out on our hike to Potato Harbor. We hiked up through the small campground at Scorpion ranch and we encountered the island fox. The island fox are native to the channel islands and they’re adorable little rascals about the size of a small housecat and not easily intimidated despite their small size.

From the campground we took a short use trail up to reach the coastal bluffs. Sadly the sun was still hiding but we got some great views along the coastal trail. The cliffs reminded us both of a mini Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Once you reach the bluffs it’s pretty flat all the way to Potato Harbor. The views of Potato harbor were to die for, with a bright blue shining ocean offset with floating kelp. It was easy to see why there were so many snorkelers down in the harbor.

Santa Cruz Island coast
channel-islands-boats

Despite the views we didn’t want to linger too long as we had an afternoon ferry to catch. We followed the coastal trail back to Scorpion Ranch. Realizing we still had time to burn before our ferry ride we continued east from Scorpion Ranch to Cavern Point. It’s a short steep climb on a fire road but you are quickly rewarded for your efforts with a fantastic ocean view of cliffs, mini islands and rocky ocean caves. We got really lucky and timed it just right as the fog was lifting and the views steadily improved. We had time for a bunch of photos and then quickly descended back to Scorpion Ranch for our ferry ride back to the mainland.
If you get the chance and the weather conditions are good I highly recommend booking a ferry ride and exploring Santa Cruz island or any of the Channel Islands. It’s such a cool experience to have these remote unspoiled gems right off the California coast. I’d love to come back here in late winter or spring when the grass is green and the sun is shining.

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Distance: 6.8 miles